It’s been roughly a year since Walmart Inc. launched the high-end personal shopping subscription service Jetblack. The $50-per-month service, which allows consumers to shop via text message, remains invitation-only and only available in Manhattan, limited areas in Brooklyn and, this summer, the Hamptons on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
While Jetblack’s rollout has been gradual, the consumers who are Jetblack members are regularly using the service and they’re spending a lot through its platform. Two-thirds of members engage with the service weekly and members spend $1,500 per month on average via the platform, said Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart ecommerce U.S., at the 2019 Walmart Associate and Shareholders Meeting.
Jetblack “brings conversational commerce to life,” Lore said.
Jetblack subscribers can purchase items on Jet.com or its app and a Jetblack courier will deliver it. Shoppers can purchase in any category except fresh groceries, alcohol, marijuana-related products, tobacco and prescription medications and lenses from non-Walmart-owned retailers. The retailer doesn’t list any retailer exclusions.
Jetblack was the first “portfolio business” startup to emerge out of Walmart Inc.’s Store No. 8 technology incubator. The service offers same-day delivery for most orders placed before 2 p.m. and next-day delivery for most other items. A courier collects a shopper’s entire order, which he delivers in a tote bag. Shoppers also can text the service to return items, which the courier will pick up.
When a consumer signs up for the service, she receives an “onboarding” phone call that typically runs about 10 minutes in which a Jetblack associate asks for information, such as her product and brand preferences, as well as any relevant information such as allergies. The retailer also offers a service in which an employee visits the shopper’s home and scans products to place them in her “essentials” list. As part of the retailer’s welcome kit, it sends her a pair of Apple Inc. Airpods to enable her to use text-to-voice technology to interact with the assistant, which Jetblack calls “J.”
Once the retailer has the consumer’s information, the shopper can text J to order any item ranging from paper towels to a Chanel handbag, as the retailer isn’t limiting the items it offers to Walmart or Jet’s inventory. For now, the only product categories not currently available are groceries, alcohol, prescriptions and tobacco products. However, Fleiss tells Internet Retailer it plans to add groceries in the future.
J is a hybrid of artificial intelligence-powered technology and human associates. For simple requests, such as “order paper towels,” a human associate may not be involved. Other interactions, such as a request or a recommendation for a pair of shoes to go with a given dress, it might defer to a human expert.
Walmart did not immediately respond to Internet Retailer’s request for additional information such as the number of members using Jetblack, their median spending or percentage of sales that occur at non-Walmart-owned merchants.
Walmart is No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000.